Meetinghouse Arts is an art gallery and performance venue within the First Parish Church Congregational on Main Street in Freeport. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Freeport First Parish Church Congreational was once an underutilized space, rarely opening its doors on Main Street in Freeport except for services on Sunday mornings. Some enterprising advocates for the visual and performing arts saw that as an opportunity.

In 2015, they formed the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Freeport, now called Meetinghouse Arts, which regularly transforms the church’s sanctuary into a 180-seat venue for performances of music, dance, stand-up comedy, improv, drama and more. The group also mounts exhibits of work by local artists and hosts art classes in a gallery that abuts the church’s sanctuary.

The result: Meetinghouse, now halfway through its second season, is filling gaps in Freeport’s cultural offerings by showcasing work created by residents of Freeport and from all over New England.

“We have a very broad reach,” said Suzanne Watson, the executive director of Meetinghouse Arts. “Freeport has designated us as a Local Arts Agency. That means we have the opportunity to really serve the greater community’s arts and cultural needs. We see ourselves as bigger than the (Meetinghouse) venue, but we also see ourselves as the lead on how arts and culture get developed for the community.”

That statement, which Watson described as “a mouthful,” will translate into a generous helping of eclectic programming through February, both on the Meetinghouse stage and in its gallery.

The performance space at Meetinghouse Arts in Freeport. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The one remaining stage presentation this month (Dec. 30), by the State Street Traditional Jazz Band of Portland, should help usher in the new year in a particularly festive way. The band pays homage to the original Preservation Hall Band of New Orleans, where the roots of jazz were born in the French Quarter over 100 years ago.


Mike Miclon, a polyglot entertainer, is best known for his role as the Johnny Carson-inspired host of “The Early Evening Show,” a spoof on late-night talk shows that has been delighting audiences for 25 years in Maine and neighboring New England states. He and his team will present a new version of “Early Evening” for Meetinghouse on Jan. 27. Miclon and others on his team write new material for each show. He said he’s planning to bring in “Portland celebrities” as his guests.

Two groups from Portland will grace the Meetinghouse stage in February: Palaver Strings (Feb. 4) and Capital City Improv (Feb. 28). The Palaver players will perform Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 4, and they will team up with guest artists Jamie Oshima, half of the popular Maine folk-pop duo Oshima Brothers, and Fredy Clue, a nyckelharpa virtuoso, nature-inspired composer and multi-instrumentalist from Sweden. The collaborations with Oshima and Clue will feature premiere performances of the latter’s new arrangements for nyckelharpa and strings.

As for the Meetinghouse gallery, it’s become the principal venue for artists who pay an annual gallery membership fee of $70 to participate in an open or theme-specific group show or apply for exclusive participation in a “gallery member rental” exhibit.

“Sparkle: Holiday Show,” an open show, will be on view through the end of December. Area students will exhibit their art in a community-based show in March.

The gallery will feature several workshops for the general public in January and February. Details haven’t been finalized yet; when they are, they’ll be posted on the Meetinghouse website.

Organizers say they intend to offer workshops on landscape painting, life drawing (for which a partially clothed life model will be used) and glassmaking, as well as yoga and art. Also planned are Saturday in the Studio sessions, in which artists work on individual projects in their preferred medium with instruction from a professional teaching artist.

Ken Keuffel is an arts writer who lives in Brunswick.

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